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Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative - ISSN 1780-678X 
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Issue 10. The Visualization of the Subaltern in World Music. On Musical 
Contestation Strategies 

Rumba Lingala as Colonial Resistance 

Author: Jesse Samba Wheeler 
Published: February 2005 

Abstract (E): This article examines how Congolese Rumba Lingala musicians, 
with the creation of a new musical style in the late 1940s and 1950s, contested 
colonial authority and envisioned an independent future. At the height of 
colonial oppression, these artists stimulated their compatriots through song to 
rethink the meaning of being Congolese, a poetic and powerful aspect of the 
liberation struggle. Musical examples accompany the analysis. 

Abstract (F): Cet article analyse la maniere dont les musiciens du Rumba 
Lingala congolais ont conteste I'autorite coloniale et ouvert des nouvelles voies 
d'avenir en creant un nouveau style musical a la fin des annees 1940 et dans 
les annees 1950. Au faite de I'oppression coloniale, les chansons de ces artistes 
ont su encourager leurs compatriotes a repenser leur identite congolaise. Elles 
constituaient ainsi un aspect poetique et puissant de la lutte de liberation. 
L'analyse s'appuie sur de nombreux exemples musicaux. 

keywords: Rumba, lingala, Congo, colonialism 

Aftiu£ in the late 1930s and early 1940s in the countries now called the Republic of Congo 
(capital Brazzaville) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (capital Kinshasa), a 
sonic revolution took place that heralded the political revolution and ousting of 
colonial occupation in 1960. In the decades approaching independence, musicians 
created a music uniquely Congolese and fostered a radically different social- 
consciousness. This national music was not founded solely on Congolese musical 
forms, however; it "localized" foreign musical genres, especially from Cuba and 
other Caribbean countries. Yet, the Latin American styles imported into the Congos 
were not entirely foreign to them. The rumba and son montuno, for example, were 
founded to varying degrees on musical traditions transported from the Congo 
region across the Atlantic with the slaves. Twentieth century Congolese interest in 
musical styles from the Americas and Europe and their subsequent, selective re- 
indigenization created a new medium of artistic expression. This medium, together 
with the continual use of active, local music traditions, made audible the 
emergence of a reconceptualized nation. Embedded within the songs of this new 
genre, called Rumba Lingala, are blueprints to the construction of a new national 
identity. The construction of this identity played a central and crucial, albeit 
indirect, role in the successful struggle to overthrow the colonial government. 

This article examines part of the history of Rumba Lingala, a style that emerged in 
the urban centers of the Belgian Congo and the French Middle Congo. The style's 
name is derived from musicians' passion for and assimilation of various Latin 
American styles, fascination with "rumba" as a musical, social and cultural complex, 
and the practice of singing in Lingala. The development of Rumba Lingala 
proceeded through several successive stages, all of which involved the fusion of 
diverse local and imported styles. Seen from afar, the greater politico-artistic 

process involved both inclusion and exclusion; a close listening to the soundscape 
may reveal the changing degrees of assimilation and rejection of different styles, 
and allow a theorization of the power differential between the competing voices. 

Rumba Lingala is also the product of a complex of encounters and negotiations 
between music traditions, and of the cycle of repetition, revival and radical 
departure, an early and documented example of the phenomenon that has come to 
be named "world music." For this analysis I shall focus on the period 1948-1960 
and examine Rumba Lingala as performed on the main record labels by its primary 
practitioners. I have chosen 1948 as a starting point, because the first recordings 
of Congolese music available today were made that year. My analysis ends in 1960 
with independence, a sea-change in almost all arenas of life that effected 
qualitative changes in musical production. [1] 

Contesting colonial authority through song was was not, generally, the musicians' 
project, and Rumba Lingala cannot be considered revolutionary music in the same 
way as, for example, Chimurenga in Rhodesia in the 1970s. In the two decades 
prior to independence, however, Rumba Lingala, with the efflorescence of radio, 
record players, and recording technology, altered Congolese ideology by 
encouraging an expanded understanding of community along national rather than 
ethnic lines. In doing so against the backdrop of political unrest throughout the 
colonial world, it energized the minds and bodies of the Kuba, Luba, Kongo, Tetela, 
etc. and stimulated a feeling of community and shared destiny. Pius Ngandu 
Nkashama points language's role in arousing this sentiment: 

In so far as these songs are performed almost exclusively in the four principal 
languages established as national languages ( Lingala of the capital Kinshasa, but 
also Kiswahili spoken all over the east, Ciluba in the center, and Kikongo in the 
south) for an immense country with more than 350 different languages, the song 
should be considered like a privileged space where an historic conscience is 
affirmed. [2]: 

I am interested in analyzing the Rumba Lingala song as a site where social crisis is 
voiced and collective redemption is sought, in dialogue with the "historical 
conscience. " Listening with open ears and mind may reveal how Rumba Lingala 
songs "wrote" the Congolese nation. As an example of musical production at the 
height of colonial oppression this music may contribute to an analysis of music's 
socio-political potential in today's "posf'-colonial world. 

Thanks to 78s and the wind-up Edison, the 1930s heard the sounds of Cuban 
bands like Orquesta Aragon, Septeto Habanero and Septeto Nacional on both sides 
of the Congo River. [3] These and other steps became popular in the decades that 
followed: Dominican merengue, Haitian mering, Martinican beguine, Argentinean 
tango, Brazilian samba, and the Cuban cha-cha, bolero, and mambo. But the forms 
of Latin music that cut the widest swathe in the Congos were the Cuban son 
montuno and rumba, the latter being the rhythm most heavily influenced by 
African rhythms. [4] 

Rumba Lingala emerged in the 1940s in the cities of Boma and Matadi in the Lower 
Congo region, and in Leopoldville and Brazzaville in the Stanley Pool region. The 
signal features of Rumba Lingala were the integration of Latin musical themes and 
the rise of a new type of dance band that supplanted earlier traditions. [5] The 
rumba's appearance at the 1932 Chicago World Fair and concerts in New York by 
Machito and his Afrocubans, Orquesta Broadway and Johnny Pacheco made the 
rumba (its ballroom version, anyway) fashionable and respectable as an exotic 
music to Europeans. This music reached the Congos on records and in person when 

the colonial governments hired Cuban bands to entertain the colonial officers. 
Perhaps it was the African influence in the rumba that made it initially popular 
among the Congolese. Cuba and the Congos were anything but two "fully formed 
and mutually exclusive cultural communities" colliding. [6] The rumba itself sprang 
from the mixture of the folk musics of the Spanish slavers and the African captives 
brought to Cuba, seventy percent of whom were from the Congo River basin. [7] 

In the Congos the name "rumba" seems to have been applied to any music with a 
clave beat, even if it more closely resembled another rhythm. A reinterpretation of 
the name thus accompanied the assimilation of the music. Rumba Lingala's 
signature rhythm, according to my analysis, is a duple meter with a clave beat 
most similar to that of Cuban son (itself similar to 12/8 bell patterns found in 
many parts of West and Central Africa) . It is articulated by percussion, guitar, 
horn, or organ. As I hear the clave, the rest between the grouping of three and the 
grouping of two gives a feeling of a dragging, holding, then catching up. Variations 
in the Rumba Lingala rhythmic foundation include the reversing of the 3-2 
groupings, and the infusion of a march-like squareness into the clave. The latter 
nonetheless preserved the sliding, dragging feeling, which the right foot outlines at 
the top of the square in couples' version of Cuban rumba. The bass guitar 
emphasized the clave beat and provided the harmonic framework, typically a I- 
(IV)-V-I progression. 

On the earliest recordings named "rumbas," compositions were played on two 
guitars and, often, a bottle with a knife. One guitarist would strum the rhythm and 
harmonic changes, while the other picked out the chords to support the voice that 
carried the melody. Not long after the Ngoma label began recording in 1948, bands 
began to fill out. Some of the early line-ups included: three guitars, clarinet, and 
"jazz," the name given to the scraper (Manuel d'Oliveira et les San Salvador, 
1952); three guitars, bass, maracas and claves (Wendo, 1956); one guitar, bass, 
two clarinets, trumpet, maracas, "jazz" (Leon Bukasa, 1957). A publicity photo of 
the Ngoma house band, the Beguen Band, from around 1955 shows the group with 
banjo, upright bass, trumpet, euphonium, alto and tenor saxes, and drum kit 
(including snare, two tenors and kick drum, and sock and ride cymbals). A similar 
photo from around 1959 shows two hollow-bodied, amplified guitars, upright bass, 
trumpet, alto sax, possibly clarinet, "jazz," bongos, and maracas. Most of the songs 
also included a "tam-tam," most likely a single-headed, cylindrical drum. By the 
end of the decade, big bands, called "orchestres," had become the preferred 
format, using acoustic string bass, multiple electric guitars, conga drums, maracas, 
scraper, flute or clarinet, saxophones, and trumpet. Beginning in 1952, the bass, 
which may have been introduced by visiting European musicians, [8] assumed the 
role of providing the harmonic foundation, previously the work of the second 
guitar; the latter took to interacting polyrhythmically with the lead guitar, and 
strumming as a technique virtually disappeared. 

The guitars were tuned D-G-D-G-B-D, called the "Hawaiian" open tuning. 
Musicians used a capo to change keys, and vibrations of the open strings against it 
produced a highly desirable buzzing effect. [9] Listening to early recordings today, 
the listener would likely note the following characteristics: Most singing is syllabic, 
with melismatic inflections at the end of lines, many of which use a rhetorical call 
of "mama, e." The harmonies are usually thirds, though Congolese music scholar 
Kazadi wa Mukuna notes the occasional octave or fifth, used for special effect. 
[10]Three types of call and response recur: between singer and chorus; between 
singer and instrument; and between instruments of different sections. Pieces 
exhibit a combination of homophony and polyrhythm. Melodic interest is 
concentrated in a single part with subordinate accompaniment, but rhythmic 
texture is denser and more differentiated across the various instruments. Horns 

often punctuate, interspersing with vocal lines, rather than carry the melodic line, 
except when used antiphonally with the lead singer or chorus. Improvisation 
generally consists of variations of a motif, often involving a third. (The lead 
guitarist of African Jazz, Dr. Nico, played in higher registers and often improvised 
by moving up and down the scale step-wise through arpeggios on a single string or 
parallel third movement on two. Franco of O.K. Jazz preferred intervals of thirds 
and sixths on the mid-range strings, and his improvisations, which especially in 
later years featured variations on a series of repeated riffs, exploited the guitar's 
rhythmic capabilities. In his hands it became a voice conversing with other 
instruments in the percussion section.) The songs typically remain in a single key 
throughout, and few change tempo. 

Rumba Lingala songs were by and large composed with multiple sections. The first 
was an introduction, in which typically everyone sang and played. The second 
section was often a sort of solo portion, called the sebene , which in some ways 
resembled the montuno portion of the Cuban son montuno form. [11] During the 
sebene the dancers would try out new steps. Listeners familiar with Congolese 
music today would hear in early recordings something familiar: throughout songs, 
especially during the sebene, musicians shout slogans. They often refer to the 
particular rhythm and dance of the song. As the sebene developed , the special 
role of the animateur was created, whose job it was to incite the dancers with cries 
of "Kwassa kwassa!" (from the French "quoi ga?") "Kiri kiri!", "Moto!", "Zekete 
zekete!", etc., often designating the appropriate dance. During the early years, 
shouted slogans were signatures of a sort. For example, Edo Nganga of O.K. Jazz 
was known to shout "Baila!", Landot Rossignol, also of O.K. Jazz, "Caramba!", 
Joseph Kabasele, the leader of African Jazz, the era's biggest band, "Chauffez!", 
and Henri Bowane "Krr . . . wamoluka landa bango!" ("Krr . . . searchers, follow 
them!")- [12] 

I hear the adherence to a single tonality, the preference for close harmonies, and 
the use of call and response as a desire for unity. Expressions of agreement are 
privileged over those of dissent, those of harmony over those of dissonance, of 
inclusion over exclusion. The characteristic sweetness of Rumba Lingala, even of 
Congolese music up to the present, achieved by singing in upper registers and 
falsettos, the rounded timbre of the amplified guitars, the tight harmonies and the 
limited improvisation, eschews conflict, encourages agreement. Musicians combined 
local musical characteristics, such as singing in thirds, polyrhythm and homophony, 
and foreign elements, such as instrumentation, harmonic progression and singing 
in Spanish and French, in order to syncretize the dissonant environments and 
resolve the existential tension of the two colliding world systems. The syncretism of 
the early Rumba Lingala era signals to me both a nostalgia for the familiarity of a 
prior time and an excitement for the less knowable present and future. Musicians 
and dancers sought to make a space where everyone could create, participate and 
identify. The sebene is the time for musicians to demonstrate their dexterity with 
the world around them and their role as its co-creators. It is the time to celebrate 
the new identity in the company of the group, for dancers to show that they 
belong. The animateur , soon a de rigueur member of Rumba Lingala bands, 
encouraged group identification by inciting dancers to join in, facilitating the 
collective process by enthusiastically shouting coded instructions as to how to 
dance. If later bands can offer clues as to the performance practices during the 
Rumba Lingala era, the musicians also danced, making even plainer the "steps to 

Another characteristic of Rumba Lingala is the high degree of repetition in 
compositions. Short phrases in horn, guitar, percussion and vocal parts are 
repeated many times. As technological advances enabled longer recordings, 

repetition increased. This feature lends itself well to dancing, as a stable base is 
needed to work the choreography and is characteristic of many of the rural music 
traditions in the Congos. I hear more than the simple transfer of a musical practice, 
however: Repetition can be a form of hyperbole. Motifs, introduced then repeated 
with variations, building and amassing significance, express on the surface musical 
tendencies, and below the surface ideological tendencies. The exaggeration of 
repetition is what Max Paddison calls a "stylistic device employed to highlight these 
tendencies and bring them vividly into consciousness. " [13] As repetition (either 
within a single song, or between songs of a single style) entices dancers out onto 
the dance floor, it is a call to the group, for members to swell and solidify its 
ranks. Heard in the context of the political oppression of the period, it is an effort 
to wear down the opposition, erode the system, break free of colonialism. 

The rubric Rumba Lingala was inclusive, for most musicians of the Rumba Lingala 
era played variations on several different Latin rhythms, responding to the 
changing times by incorporating new rhythms and dances into their repertoire. For 
example, the cha-cha became quite popular towards the end of the 1950s, 
prompting Wendo to re-record his 1948 hit "Marie-Louise" in 1958 as a cha-cha 
backed by the Beguen Band. [14] Collections of recordings from the late 1940s 
through 1960 show bands performing rumbas, boleros, cha-chas, merengues, 
polka piques, biguines [15] and a variety of others. Some recordings called 
"rumbas" by the record labels exhibit other rhythms; Kazadi suggests that studios 
labeled songs "rumbas" because of the word's commercial appeal. [16] Each 
rhythm had its specific use: the cha-cha was the preferred form for treating joyous 
or celebratory subjects [17], the merengue for light entertainment, and the bolero 
for songs of elegy. The "rumba," however, predominated; it was an all-purpose 
rhythm, often used for stories of love, as well as social messages. 

Early Rumba Lingala works were sometimes covers of Latin classics, such as the 
son-pregon "El Manisero," an early staple of the new bands. Bokalanga's rumba 
"Mazole Vanga Sanga," recorded on Loningisa 1953-1954, begins with "Mani-i-i-i-i- 
i-i-i-i-i-i-i," a quote from the famous original. [18] When not in Lingala, the lyrics 
of early cha-chas, boleros, pachangas and merengues were sung in French, 
English, or pidgin Spanish, copied from the recordings. Occasionally, singers 
playfully mixed languages. Even in original compositions singers would often insert 
Spanish. In an interview with Kazadi wa Mukuna, Franco of Le Tout Puissant O.K. 
Jazz said, "Well, nobody understood Spanish. Nevertheless, we took a dictionary 
and searched for words that would sound good and we used them regardless of 
their true meaning." [19] "Maria Antonia," recorded by Pholidor and Bana Loningisa 
1955-56, called a "Rumba Espahola" by the label, is sung in an untranslatable 
"Spangala." [20] The use of Spanish diminished in the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

Comhaire-Sylvain offers an "ear-witness" account of the early days of Rumba 

"Many recordings were being sold in Kinshasa in 1945. Those with success were 
dance music. Contrary to Spirituals which were not being sold, American jazz tunes 
were very much appreciated and often imitated by Congolese bands. Local 
composers sometimes adapted Lingala words to tunes which were enjoyed the 
most by the population. South American and Afro-Cuban music were also popular 
and several Congolese singers adorned their own works with Spanish words." [21] 

One can infer the importance of linguistic play, as bands both familiarized the other 
and exoticized the familiar. The song "Menagere," recorded by Pauline Lisanga's 
ensemble 1953-1954, [22] shows an astute awareness of the contrasting 
significance of different rhythms. The title is a term borrowed from French 
(meaning "housewife") and used in the Congo to designate a European man's 

African mistress. Loningisa called it a "polka pike/' The song begins with a polka 
pique, one of the favorite rhythms of the early 1950s in the villes indigenes , 
played on guitar, accordion, snare with cymbal, saxophone and possibly kazoo. A 
third of the way into the 2:51 song, everything but the snare and accordion drops 
out. With a shout of "Tango! Recommended by doctors!" a slow tango ensues. [23] 
The word used for "doctors" is polyvalent: Banganga may refer to both European- 
trained physicians and traditional healers. The tango was at that time in vogue 
among the Europeans and immatricules , a class of privileged Congolese with 
identification cards and the freedom to drink alcohol and stay out after the nine- 
o'clock curfew. [24] I read this as the band's testament that their music heals, and 
theirs is good for everyone: whether they are the type to visit just one kind of 
doctor or both, as would many Congolese, especially if the European treatment did 
not have the desired effect. The dose of tango is small — just about a minute. The 
polka pique then resumes. This song shows more clearly than most the phase of 
musical transition between European- and Latin -oriented sounds. It reveals the 
playful ambiguity of identity in living between two worlds, African and European. It 
also speaks to a belief in music's ability to heal. 

The first band in either of the Congos to play Latin American music was Orchestre 
Congo-Rumba, started in 1934 in Brazzaville by Jean Real, a French man from 
Martinique. [25] Ensembles followed the "Haitian model" of guitar, cornet, sax, 
patenge (a square frame drum) and two singers. [26]The first African-led bands to 
incorporate rumba [27] into their repertoire were established in 1942: In 
Leopoldville, Americain, Martinique, Odeon and Victoria Leo; in Brazzaville, Melo- 
Congo and Victoria Brazza. [28] Other groups from the mid-1940s include the 
Congo Bar's house band Kin Jazz and Jean Lopongo's Mabokoji Group. These 
bands, along with Excelsior, are regarded as the first orchestres , or dance bands. 
Typically these ensembles played for mourning ceremonies, births, baptisms, family 
parties, marriages, and for popular amusement. [29] The Congolese music scholar 
Lonoh Malangi Bokelenge tells us that before the arrival of Europeans to the 
Congo, dance bands such as these did not exist; local musical organizations were 
the norm. [30] The newly structured ensembles sometimes changed their names to 
reflect their "modernization." L'Harmonie Kinoise, for instance, became La Joie 
Kinoise in 1949. La Joie Kinoise, under the leadership of singer, interpreter and 
composer Joseph Kabasele Tshamala, changed its name again to African Jazz for 
its first official appearance in Kinshasa in 1953. [31] Musicians also Latinized their 
names to demonstrate their "hipness." Frangois and Francis became "Franco," 
Edward "Edo," Nicolas "Nico," and Balozi "Baroza." [32] 

As in their approach to the new urban music genres, instrumentation and their own 
stage names, musicians were fond of using foreign elements in their bands' names. 
Some examples are Orchestre Machina Loca[33] , Beguen Band, San Salvador, 
Likembes Geantes, Novelty, and African Soul Quintet. The term "jazz" occurred 
frequently in bands' names. It did not signify that the band played jazz music; 
instead, it was a symbol of modernity. Some examples are African Jazz, O.K. Jazz, 
Kin Jazz, Dynamic Jazz, Vedette Jazz, Negro Jazz, Mysterieux Jazz, Ry-Co Jazz, 
Mexico Jazz, Congo Jazz, Bantous Jazz, Cercul Jazz, O.D. Jazz, Jazz Venus, Jazz 
Beguen, and Jazz Mango. Musicians' propensity to use "jazz" in their bands' names 
and the use of the moniker to designate the scraper, or mkwakwa , may have 
stemmed from positive impressions of African-American soldiers stationed in 
Congolese cities. [34] Certainly, Congolese musicians were aware of American jazz; 
Louis Armstrong's visit to Kinshasa, where he gave a public concert, was much 
feted. He was transported to the stadium like a chief, in a chair carried by porters 
and preceded by dancers and musicians. [35] Why musicians were not drawn to 
more closely imitate American jazz is a question that was asked even in 1950. Jean 

Welle, a writer for the periodical Congopresse , wrote: 

"I have never heard Congolese musicians play jazz -- I mean true jazz, in the 
manner of the North Americans. I have been told when they listen to records from 
across the Atlantic they react with indifference. As regards their dancing, they are 
fond of the sounds from a pick-up [a turntable], that is, romantic recordings, and 
slow-fox or slow waltz melodies. . . . 

"But if the blacks of Harlem surrender to the rolling of nickel-plated drums, to the 
frenetic dances whose names evoke the ancestral jungle -- their brothers in the 
Congo, when they are not dancing the rumba to the sounds of their dance bands, 
they would prefer without hesitation the tender voice of Tino Rossi to the trumpet 
of Louis Armstrong/' [36] 

The contrast between his observation that jazz tunes were met with "indifference" 
and Comhaire-Sylvain's that "jazz tunes were very much appreciated" from five 
years earlier indicates a significant change in taste during the period that Rumba 
Lingala was coalescing as a style and beginning to be heard widely on radios, as 
well as a few turntables [Images of Technology]. The writer's observations of 
Congolese listening and dancing habits in 1950 are interesting; I interpret the 
semiotic and aesthetic choices of resignifying the word "jazz," to designate 
something non-musical, as a desire to maintain contact with a group of people 
(Americans, or perhaps black Americans specifically) who the Congolese perceived 
to be living as they wanted to; as an effort to appropriate the power that the 
Congolese themselves projected onto them; and a desire to affiliate with, to belong 
in spirit to, a world non-European, non-colonial. The juxtaposition of local and 
foreign words in ensembles' names signaled a looking inward and outward, part of 
the syncretizing effort to create a "third space" - a "best of both worlds" place they 
as the forgers of a new nation in a modern world could own. 

The appropriation of the label "jazz" parallels that of the label "rumba." Both 
appellations issued from a people seething under oppression. Cuban rumba and 
American jazz were practiced primarily by the sectors of society most marginalized. 
Race, another face of the cultural Black Atlantic, was a factor in the ruling parties' 
economic and political policies in all three regions (the Congos, Cuba, U.S.A.). 
"Jazz" and "rumba" signified artistic statements of self-esteem and group 
identification from Afro-Cubans and African-Americans and, as such, were strong 
symbols from peoples with a shared history. Connecting -- indeed identifying -- 
with those across the Atlantic through "rumba" and "jazz" enlarged the Congolese 
world. Furthermore, "jazz" connoted resistance, virility and power over oppression, 
as shown by the following excerpt from the poem "Pleure, O Noir Frere Bien-Aime" 
("Weep, O Beloved Black Brother"). The poem was written eight months before 
independence by Patrice Lumumba, the leader of the pan-Congolese party 
Mouvement National Congolais and the first prime minister of the independent 
DRC, who was later assassinated in a CIA-backed plot in February 1961. [37] 

". . . And it is there that it gushes forth, magnificent, 

Sensuous and virile like a voice of bronze 

Born of your sadness, your powerful music, 

Jazz, today admired throughout the world 

In forcing the respect of the white man, 

In telling him most loudly that henceforth, 

This country is his no more, as before, 

Thus you have granted your brothers in race 

The happy future that promises deliverance." [38] 

Why should they, though, not care for jazz music itself, but prefer "the tender 
voice of Tino Rossi" (the Corsican singer was much in vogue at the turn of the 
1950s), [39] even though it "force[d] the respect of the white man" and voiced the 
very opposition to European rule that the Congolese were feeling? It is difficult to 
account for cultural preferences, but I find it significant in light of the brutality the 
Congolese suffered at the hands of the French and Belgians: I think that sweetness 
in music provides an antidote to the harshness of the outside world, and it allows 
the listener to accommodate difficulties by both relaxing and reinvigorating the 
body and mind for another day. Direct challenge to colonial rule was not 
countenanced, as musician Adou Elenga discovered in 1955. [40] Rumba Lingala - 
not jazz, nor the music of any other people - was the music with which Congolese 
as an emergent nation enunciated their opposition to colonization. 

According to Comhaire-Sylvain, 

"The most common subjects treated in the period after recordings were made 
(from 1948) were love and relationships between the sexes, difficulties of urban 
life (living in a colonial state), ethics, death, and dancing. Frequently musicians 
were contracted to advertise a particular product. Later politics and music 
interfaced directly as politicians exploited the popularity of particular bands and 
individual personalities to improve their election chances or endear themselves to 
the public. This overt relationship between music and politics was not a feature of 
pre-independence music. "[41] 

Here are three examples of early Rumba Lingala songs whose lyrics provide a 
window into the social and political reality of the period. 

1. "Noko Akomi Mobali," by Adikwa 

>> Click here to open music player in a new window (requires Flash plug-in). 

The rumba "Noko Akomi Mobali" ("The Uncle Becomes the Boyfriend"), recorded by 
Adikwa on Loningisa 1953-1954 is typical of the miniature soap operas of the 78 
rpm era, in which love, frustration and moralizing were all covered. It features two 
guitars, a snare drum, maracas, and at least three singers. The following exchange 
scene transpires in the song: 

Him: You lied to me when you settled this rendez-vous with me. Do 
you think a little girl like you can cheat an old dog like me? I waited 
for you, but now it's your turn to wait! 

Her: Set your mind at ease, darling. There are many other days. 
Today I just didn't have the time. 

Him: (Aside) As for me, I don't have much time left! (To her) You 
cheated me because of the beer, but from now on it's you and me 
till death do us part. (Aside) Even if I must pay her a taxi to 
Kitambo, what I will lose on one side I will gain on the other! (To 
her) You asked me to buy you four beers and to take you to the 
movies and you promised to take me home after. Now you show me 
this guy pretending he's your uncle. Suddenly the uncle becomes 
your boyfriend! (To the uncle) Did you see what that girl has done to 

Uncle: Yes, those girls are always like that. 

Him: Doesn't she ever stay at home? 

Uncle: Leave her alone! 

Him: And why should I pay a taxi for her? (Aside) It's a shame, my 
friends! [42] 

This hilarious scenario satirizes several characteristics of life in the big city in the 
1950s. Firstly, it spoofs the stereotype of gross age difference between the man 
and the woman with "old dog" and "little girl," the aside "As for me, I don't have 
much time to wait," and the possibility that her lover could pass for her uncle. 
Secondly, it also addresses the changing rituals of courtship: the beer and movie 
are commodities with arguably no use-value that virtually any man is able to 
present a woman. However, colonial control over the flow of capital diminished a 
man's ability to provide for a woman, thereby threatening to emasculate him. 
Thirdly, it comments on the place of women in urban society. Rural responsibilities 
were replaced by a reduced ability to contribute positively to society. Angling for 
the best man was a means of survival. Lastly, the line "What I will lose on one side 
I will gain on the other" summarizes a life-philosophy, one that has particular 
applicability when coping with colonial society. The rules were constantly changing, 
conspiring to keep the Congolese entangled in a web of obedience, transgression 
and punishment. Avoiding trouble with the authorities was, apparently, a daily 
challenge: Antoine Mundanda's "Njila ya Ndolo" ("The Road to Prison"), a rumba 
recorded for Ngoma in 1954, [43] and Dewayon's biguine "Nalekaki na Nzela" ("I 
Was on my Way"), issued by Loningisa 1953-1954, [44] both describe the ease with 
which a young man might find himself spending a night (or more) in jail. Franco's 
"La Rumba O.K.," released by Loningisa 1955-1956, describes Franco's arrest and 
four nights behind bars, apparently for the way he had piloted his Vespa 
scooter. [45] The ability to see balance, as the disgruntled suitor in the above 
example shows, increased one's chances for survival. 

2. "Margarine Fina," by Tino Mab 

>> Click here to open music player in a new window (requires Flash plug-in). 

Songs were also used as advertisements for certain products. An example is 
"Margarine Fina" by Tino Mab, recorded for Loningisa in 1953-1954. It is a biguine 
for two guitars, maracas, wood block and bass drum. Before the song starts we 
hear the following skit, which provides an example of music as propaganda - not 
just for a product, but for European domination itself: 

Woman: "Mmm." 

"Mmm. " 

Man: "Nde. Boni solo kitoko mpo na ndako?" 

"What smells so delicious in the house? 

Woman: "Nakalingaki ngombe na mafuta ya mindele." 

"I fried meat in the oil used by the whites. " 

Man: "Nini? 'Margarine Fina'?" 

"Which one? 'Fina Margarine'?" 

Woman: "Ehn?" 


Man: "Mekisa ngai moke." 

"Let me try a little. " 

Woman: "Mma." 

(Signals him to open his mouth) 

Man: "Mmm. Ya solo. Elengi, eh?" 

"Mmm. Really good, no?"[46] 

The leader and chorus then sing about how delicious and useful Magarine Fina is. 
The phrase "used by the whites" is provocative; in contrast to Lumumba's poem 
"Pleure, O Noir Frere Bien-Aime" cited above, "Margarina Fina" speaks to the 
assimilationist, mirroring aspect of the complex white-black, European-African, 
colonizer-colonized relationship. Like "jazz" and "rumba," margarine - a foreign 
commodity - is portrayed as a porter of value, modernity and power. [47] It is not 
surprising that advertisers and studio owners should seek to "butter up" colonial 
officials by playing to their need for control over the minds and bodies of the 
Congolese. Ads like this helped to reinforce colonial values and to strengthen the 
administration's grip on power. 

3. "Marie-Louise," by Wendo 

>> Click here to open music player (requires Flash plug-in). 

The first recorded version of "Marie-Louise" by Wendo, a rumba, was captured onto 
acetate in 1948. [48] It was flown to Bruxelles where the pressing master was 
molded and released the following year on 78 rpm shellac as Ngoma 23. [49] The 
version I have heard comes from a CD mastered from the re-released 45 rpm EP 
single Ngoma 1011. Its sound quality is tinny, scratchy, much like hearing a song 
over a telephone. The mid-range frequencies dominate; the upper and lower 
strings of the guitars often lose out to the middle. Overall their sound takes on a 
muddy, "nasal" quality. It sounds as if the upper string(s) are slightly flat. The 
voices come through strongly and clearly, and the lyrics are easy to understand. 
The singers utilize their natural range, without going into falsetto as many later 
signers would do. 

On the surface "Marie-Louise" is a man's plea to a woman to marry him. He begs 
her to come to him. He talks of the resistance her family has put up to the 
marriage, but, he argues, their love is true and must be consecrated. It is self- 
referential: Wendo identifies himself as the suitor and a musician, and Bowane is 
named a musician and his brother-in-law. Bowane sings a verse, where he tells 
Wendo that he has nothing to complain about -- they have a car, guitars, their 
voices. He says they should run away with her to Kingabwa (presumably a town). 

Wendo : 

Marie-Louise solo ngai na yo 

Marie-Louise, I am truly yours 

Wapi nkombo Louise 

Where is the one named Louise ? 

Lobela ngai ntina wapi, Louise. 

Tell me why, Louise. 

Louise, nakobala te. 

Louise, I will not get married. 

5 Louise, nakozila yo, bokilo alobi, Louise. 

Louise, I will wait for you, as bokilo [see below] said, Louise. 

Solo mpenza ngai nakobala, Louise. 

It is so true that I want to marry you, Louise. 

Bokilo aboyi ngai na yo nde libala. 

Bo kilo has refused you and me the marriage. 

Ngai na yo tolingani. 

You and I love each other. 

Libala na ngai na yo, mama Louise. 

Marriage is for you and me, [mama] Louise 

10 Wapi Louise? 

Where are you Louise ? 

Yoka sebene. 

Listen to the sebene. 

Bokilo alobeli ngai makanisa ya motema. 

Bokilo has revealed the thoughts of his heart to me. 

Kofinga ngai na mayele, kotongo ngai na mayele 

He insults me mischievously, discredits me craftily 

Likolo na mwana nde Louise. 

Because of the girl Louise. 

15 Ngai nakobala nde Louise. 

/ will marry only Louise. 

Bokilo, bofinga ngai mpo Louise. 

Bokilo, you insult me because of Louise. 

Oyebaka te Bowane bokilo wa yo. 

Don't forget Bowane is your bokilo. 

Wapi Louise? 

Where is Louise ? 

Wendo alingi komona mama Louise 

Wendo wants to see [mama] Louise 

20 Bongo apesa na Bowane 

So he can show her to Bowane 

Wapi Louise? 

Where are you Louise ? 

Solo Bowane bola guitare kombo lindanda mpe likembe wa ngai. 

Bowane plays guitar harmoniously and my likembe 


Wendo, yokoloba pamba 

Wendo, you talk for nothing 

Biso tozali na voiture 

We have our car 

25 Biso tozali na baguitares na biso 

We have our guitars 

Biso tozali na mingongo ya biso 

We have our voices 

Tokokima na ye nzela Kingabwa mama 

l/l/e will run away with her to Kingabwa [mama] 


Solo mpenza nayoki nde lolaka 

/ hear only the music 

Oyo bakonzemba ngai, bakotuna ngai, Wendosor. 

That they will sing for me, what they will ask me, Wendosor. 

30 Catalogue akonzemba mpe ngai, Marie-Louise. 

Catalogue also sings for me, Marie-Louise. 

Solo mpenza nakobola guitare. 

Yes, I am playing guitar. 

Nabola mpe likembe na ngai mpe na violon. 

And I play my likembe and my violin. 

Wapi Louise na ngai mama? 

Where is my Louise [mama]? 

Bola guitare lindanda! 

Play guitar harmoniously! 

35 Solo mpenza bino bakonzemba Louise 

Yes, you who will sing for Louise 

Baninga ba ngai yoka Bowane akonzemba mpe na lindanda 

My friends, listen to Bowane, he will sing, and how sweetly 

Solo ngai Wendosor mama. . . . 

It is really me Wendosor [mama]. . . . [50] 

My expanded reading reveals this song to be allegorical and quietly confrontational. 
Wendo and Bowane, two of the most famous and widely recorded musicians in 
their day (Wendo released a new album in 1995; Bowane's last, as far as I know, 
came in 1976 during his days in Ghana), sing about an object of desire that is 
beyond their reach. They want a different life, one where they are treated as 
equals, free to go wherever they want, with whomever and whenever. They 
recognize the perks of their status, the power of celebrity, but recognize that its 
rewards are material only. They invoke the pride of their rural, familial, ancestral 
heritage and sublimate that force into the institutionalized captivity of the urban 
recording musician. Combined with the power of new technology they attempt to 
break out. 

A different life is beyond their reach at the moment, for a certain "bokilo" will not 
marry them. The authority figure is ambiguously portrayed as "bokilo," which in 
Lingala can mean father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, or, 
colloquially, friend. Here the problem is most likely between Wendo and his 
potential father-in-law. All in-laws would play various roles even before marriage, 
even before they had legally become in-laws, and would impact the married 
couple's lives ever after. I see "bokilo" - a force outside the nucleus of the 
marriage yet intimately and inextricably bound to the daily affairs of one's family - 
as an allusion to colonial power, whose various agents impacted every aspect of 
Congolese life. Here the colonizer seeks to thwart Wendo's efforts by "not marrying 
him" to his object of desire - freedom (line 7). Instead Wendo is criticized and 

insulted, rebuked for trying to achieve something outside his mandated position in 
colonial society (lines 13-4). Wendo's response is to remind his listeners that 
Bowane is on his side, and once he shows Bowane what it is he wants, Bowane will 
help him. (lines 17, 20, 22). Bowane needs to be convinced: He tells Wendo that 
he should not complain, not seek more than he already has (line 23). Not only 
have they been given material luxuries, but they have not yet been silenced (lines 
24-6). Here Bowane shifts to supporting Wendo: Yes, they do have their voices 
and guitars, their instruments of power. Let them go forth together and take "her" 
(line 27). With that vote of confidence, Wendo hears the sounds of victory, the 
music they will play at his marriage (lines 28-9). He shows that he has more 
support. Catalogue (could be a friend, or the fashion pamphlets of the time that 
"were a source of reference and inspiration to the chic young people of Kinshasa" 
[51] ) and other friends want it, too (line 30). It is true . . . they will succeed. 

Wendo comments on the confluence of the streams of urban colonized life: the 
guitar - the symbol of modernization accessible to regular folk, enabling them to 
bridge the gulf between the African and European conditions; the likembe - the 
symbol of rural music, traditional patterns of life, and the "changing same"; and 
the violin - the symbol of European culture held beyond the reach of most 
Africans. These intersecting spheres of society make up the very matrix from which 
Wendo's song and the whole genre sprang. It is in the negotiating of this uneven 
terrain that the Congolese become dexterous and are eventually able to throw the 
colonizer off balance and defeat him. 

The allegorical style was probably chosen to reduce the likelihood of retribution. 
Wendo even comments on this choice in "Marie-Louise." He tells Bowane to play 
harmoniously and sing sweetly, so as not to appear confrontational (lines 22, 34, 
36). Allegory's strength lies in its sly, slow-but-sure approach. It requires patience, 
a trust that better times will come. It is also more appropriate in situations where 
power is oppressive and vigilant, striking down any resistance. Music's strength lies 
in its open-endedness. If the lyrics are allegorical, they become nearly impossible 
to impugn. Nor can ambiguous messages be easily co-opted. Wendo reveals his 
awareness of music's power: He focuses his listeners not only on the lyrics, but 
also on the music, in the multiple references to instruments, voices and the 

Though its influence can still at times be recognized, especially in recent years' 
return to the "classic era" of Afropop, Latin music's influence declined in the period 
after independence. But during the three decades of its reign as the most popular 
of foreign musics, Rumba Lingala emerged, both as a popular form of 
entertainment and as a powerful force in the reorganization of Congolese society's 
attitudes towards colonial occupation. The incorporation of the terms "jazz" and 
"rumba" into the musical vocabulary heralded a significant shift in Congolese 
cultural politics. These two terms responded to political marginalization and racial 
oppression with an alternative vision. Like "black" in Britain, these terms "came to 
provide the organizing category of a new politics of resistance, amongst groups and 
communities with, in fact, very different histories, traditions and ethnic 
identities. "[52] The diversity of subject positions and social experiences drawn into 
Congolese identity could be accommodated through the appropriation of these 
terms, charged as they were with an intrinsic rebelliousness. These terms, the 
Latin influence on the music, orchestration and musicians' names, the preference 
for Westerns and the choice to sing in Lingala all signaled the reorientation of the 
Congolese gaze away from Europe to the Americas and to a newly envisioned 

As a mode of representation Rumba Lingala assumed a radically different position 
and displaced earlier politico-cultural strategies. It recentered the world with a 
generalized local and diasporic African experience at the nexus. The spatial model 
of home and abroad acted as a temporal model, too. Through analogy, the musical 
melding of the past with the present and the local with the foreign created a 
constellation of subject possibilities and identity options, all "Congolese. " This new 
unifying framework, which countered ethnic divisions exploited by colonial policy, 
was "based on the building up of identity across ethnic and cultural difference 
between different communities [and] became 'hegemonic' over other . . . identities 
-- though the latter did not, of course, disappear. "[53] In service of a national 
unity, other, competing identities were outdetermined. Its wide appeal, which by 
the 1960s would reach beyond the Congos into other African countries, was due in 
large part to its inherent hybridity. Though other early musical styles were 
certainly to varying degrees hybrid creations, the complexities of Congolese society 
in late colonialism could be truthfully referenced only by a musical style as 
intertextually constituted as Rumba Lingala. 

With this article I have attempted to lay the groundwork for an analysis of how 
Rumba Lingala redefined what it meant to be "Congolese" in an era of fomenting 
unrest. It did not only reflect the heterogeneous social reality that made its 
invention possible; it also played a procreative, proactive role, as it redefined 
"Congolese" along new, inter-ethnic, hybridized lines. It became a sonic meeting 
place for diverse audiences, a rallying point for liberationist sentiments, a mobilizing 
force for proto-nationalist ideologies, and a new sound for a new nation. 

Works Cited 

Amuta, Chidi. 1995. "Fanon, Cabral and Ngugi on National Liberation/' The Post- 
Colonial Studies Reader . Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds. 
London: Routledge. 158-63. 

Angeloro, Al. 1992. "Back-to -Africa: The 'Reverse' Transculturation of Salsa/Cuban 
Popular Music." Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution of Salsa in New 
York City . Vernon W. Boggs, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 299-305. 

Bartz, Jerzy. 1989. "Afro-Latin Connection. " Trans. Pawel Brodowski. Jazz Forum 
119. 38-44. 

Bemba, Sylvain. 1984. Cinquante ans de musique du Congo-Zaire, 1920-1970: de 
Paul Kamba a Tabu-Ley . Paris: Presence africaine. 

Bender, Wolfgang. 1997. Liner notes in Ngoma, Souvenir ya L'Independance. 
Popular African Music PAMAP 102. 

Bender, Wolfgang, and Gunter Gretz. 1996. Liner notes in Ngoma, The Early Years, 
1948-1960. Popular African Music PAMAP 101. 

Comhaire-Sylvain, Suzanne. 1968. Femmes de Kinshasa hier et aujourd'hui . Paris: 

Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

Hall, Stuart. 1996. "Introduction: Who Needs Identity?" Questions of Cultural 
Identity. Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, eds. London: Sage. 1-17. 

. 1995. "New Ethnicities." The Post-Colonial Studies Reader . Bill Ashcroft, 

Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds. London: Routledge. 223-27. 

Kanza Matondo ne Masangaza. 1972. Musique zairoise moderne . Kinshasa: 
Conservatoire nationale de musique et d'art. 

Kazadi, Pierre. 1971. "Congo Music: Africa's Favorite Beat." Africa Report 16/4. 25- 

Kazadi wa Mukuna. 1998. "Latin American Musical Influences in Zaire. " Garland 
Encyclopedia of World Music . Vol. 1: Africa . Ruth Stone, ed. New York: Garland. 

. 1992. "The Genesis of Urban Music in Zaire." African Music 7/2. 72-84. 

. 1980. "Congolese Music." New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians . Vol. 

4. Stanley Sadie, ed. 20 vols. London: Macmillan. 659-61. 

Kenis, Vincent, et al. 1995. Liner notes in Roots of Rumba Rock 2. Zaire Classics 
vol. 2, 1954-1955. Crammed Discs CRAW 10. 

. 1993. Liner notes in Roots of O.K. Jazz. Zaire Classics vol. 3. Crammed Discs 

CRAW 7. 

Kenis, Vincent, and Dizzy Mandjeku. 1991. Liner notes in Roots of Rumba Rock. 
Zaire Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. Crammed Discs CRAW 4. 

Lonoh, Michel. 1969. Essai de commentaire de la musique congolaise moderne. 
Kinshasa: Ministere de la Culture et des Arts. 

Lumumba, Patrice. 1959. "Pleure, O Noir Frere Bien-Aime." Independance 
(Leopoldville) (October 2): 3. 

Martin, Phyllis M. 1995. Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville . African Studies 
87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Nkashama, Pius Ngandu. 1988. "La chanson de la rupture dans la musique du 
Zaire." Chanson dAfrique et des Antilles . Itineraines et contacts de cultures 8. 
Bernard Magnier and Massa M. Diabate, eds. Paris: L'Harmattan. 63-75. 

Paddison, Max. 1982. "The Critique Criticised: Adorno and Popular Music." Popular 
Music 2. 201-218. 

Roberts, Dick. 1965. Revolution in the Congo . New York: Pathfinder Press. 

Rodriguez, Dr. Olavo Alen. 1998. From Afrocuban Music to Salsa . Berlin: Piranha. 

Stewart, Gary. 2000. Rumba on the River . London: Verso. 

Tchebwa, Manda. 1996. Terre de la chanson. Louvain-la-Neuve: Duclot. 

Welle, Jean. 1950. "Rumbas congolaises et jazz americain." Congopresse 57 
(Leopoldville) (January 15): 1072-3. Reprinted in African Music 1/5 (June 1952): 
42-3, and (unverified) La revue colonie beige 143 (September 1951). 


[l]Rumba Lingala's antecedents, including agbaya and maringa , played important 
roles in its development both as a style and a politico-artistic movement. 
Unfortunately, there is not space in the present article to give these two styles 
their due. 

[2]Nkashama, p. 64. Original text reads: "Dans la mesure ou ces chansons 
s'executent presque exclusivement dans les quatre langues principales erigees en 
langues nationales (le lingala de la capitale Kinshasa, mais aussi le swahili parle 
dans tout I'Est, le ciluba du Centre, et le kikongo du Sud) pour un pays immense 

qui compte plus de trois cent cinquante langues diffe rentes, la chanson peut etre 
consideree comme un espace privilegie ou s'affirme une conscience historique." 
[Translation mine]. 

[3]Martin 1995, p. 135. 

[4]Jerzy Bartz, "Afro-Latin Connection," Jazz Forum 119 (1989), p. 40. 

[5]including the marching-type bands, called fanfares. Kanza 1972, p. 40. 

[6]Gilroy, p. 7. 

[7]AI Angeloro, "Back-to -Africa: The 'Reverse' Transculturation of Salsa/Cuban 
Popular Music," in Vernon W. Boggs, ed., Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the 
Evolution of Salsa in New York City (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), p. 

[8] Stewart, p. 41. 

[9]Kenis 1991, p. 6. This buzzing timbre is found in many parts of Africa; in the 
Congo region the keys of likembes are fitted with bits of metal, which buzz when 
the keys are plucked. The square wave, or signal distortion, of amplified guitars, 
which Rumba Lingala musicians began experimenting with in the early 1950s, 
produces a similar timbre. 

[10]Kazadi 1980, p. 660. 

[ll]The sebene apparently derived its name from the English "seven," due, 
according to Pwono (84), to musicians' habit of featuring the seventh chord, a 
technique learned from Coastmen. In my listening, however, I could identify no 
such habitual technique. Later compositions took on two or three distinct sections. 
The first was an introduction, where the lyrical and melodic motifs were presented 
in a slow to medium tempo. The sebene would begin with an obvious increase in 
tempo and perhaps a change in key. Singing might or might not continue. If so, a 
third, purely instrumental section could close out the song. The sebene grew longer 
and became the highly anticipated portion of a composition. In the early days of 
Rumba Lingala, however, the songs usually had a formal organization of A-B-A, 
where the sebene (B) differed very little in tempo or melody from the A sections. 

[12]Dewayon was known to call out words and phrases in Indoubil, a slang 
combining Congolese and European languages. The very word "Indoubil," derived 
from "Hindu" and "Bill" (for Buffalo Bill) in homage to Hindi films and American 
Westerns, demonstrates what 1950s Congolese youth admired - none of it 
European. Vincent Kenis, et al., Roots of Rumba Rock 2, Zaire Classics vol. 2, 
1954-1955 (Crammed Discs CRAW 10, 1995), p. 11. 

[13]Paddison, p. 204. 

[14]Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960. 

[15]This spelling was used by the Congolese record labels (as opposed to 
"beguine," which is preferred in Europe and the Americas. 

[16]Kazadi 1998, p. 386. 

[17]African Jazz's "Independance Cha-Cha" is probably the best example of this. 

[18]Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaire Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954 (Crammed Discs CRAW 
4, 1991). 

[19]Kazadi 1992, p. 79. 

[20]Roots of O.K. Jazz, Zaire Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956 (Crammed Discs CRAW 7, 

[21]Comhaire-Sylvain 1968, p. 36. [Translation by Kazadi (1992, p. 79)]. 

[22]Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaire Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954 (Crammed Discs CRAW 
4, 1991) . 

[23]Original lyrics: "Tango! Eponi banganga!" [Translation mine]. 

[24]Kenis 1991, p. 8. 

[25]Martin 1995, p. 136. 

[26]This term, though I do not know its origin, is used by Tchebwa, p. 155. 

[27] Again, the ballroom version. 

[28]Tchebwa, p. 48; Bemba 1984, p. 70. 

[29]Lonoh 1969, p. 23 

[30]Lonoh 1969, p. 56. 

[31]Kazadi 1992, p. 75. 

[32]Kazadi 1998, p. 387. 

[33] When I met Papa Noel, the guitarist who led this band, in 1999, he jumped 
for joy when I showed him the CD with several of his earliest recordings. "See!" he 
shouted to Sam Mangwana and the others in the band, "I used this name first!" He 
was referring to Ricardo Lemvo's contemporary band Makina Loka. I gave Papa 
Noel the CD; unfortunately I have not found another copy. 

[34]See Martin 1995. 

[35]Bemba 1984, p. 96 

[36]Excerpted from Jean Welle's "Rumbas congolaises et jazz americain," 
Congopresse 57 (January 15, 1950), pp. 1072-3. I discovered a reprint 
(untranslated) in African Music 1/5 (June 1952), pp. 42-3. The latter credits La 
revue colonie beige 143 (September 1951), which I was unable to consult. Original 
text reads: "[J]e n'ai jamais entendu des musicians congolais jouer du jazz — 
j'entends du vrai jazz, a la fagon des noirs americains. On m'a meme pretendu que 
I'audition de disques d'outr'Atlantique [sic] les laissaient [sic] insensibles. Et de fait 
lorsqu'ils dansent aux sons d'un pick-up, ce sont des enregistrements de 
romances, airs de slow-fox ou valse lente, que les congolais [sic] affectionnent. . . 
. Mais si les noirs d'Harlem se livrent, au roulement de batteries nickelees, a des 
dances frenetiques dont les titres evoquent la jungle ancestrale — leur freres du 
Congo, lorsqu'ils ne dansent pas la rumba aux sons de leurs orchestres, preferent 
sans hesitation la voix tendre de Tino Rossi a la trompette de Louis Armstrong. . . 
." [Translation mine]. 

[37] See Roberts 1965. 

[38]Quoted in Independance , October 2, 1959, p. 3. Original text reads: "Et c'est 
la que jaillit, magnifique,/Sensuelle et virile comme une voix d'airain/Issue de ta 
douleur, ta puissante musique,/l_e Jazz, aujourd'hui admire dans le monde/En 
forgant le respect de I'homme blanc,/En lui disant tout haut que dorenavant,/Ce 
pays n'est plus le sien, comme aux vieux temps,/Tu as permis ainsi a tes freres de 
race/L'avenir heureux que promet la deliverance." [Translation mine]. 

[39] Stewart, p. 39. 

[40] His career ended in 1955 due to "lack of instruments." In fact, he had just 
released a song entitled "Ata Ndele" ("Eventually"), in which he sang "Hold your 
guitar in your hand and make her tremble so that the world will tremble. The world 
will change - sooner or later the white man will give up. . . ." The record was 
snatched off the market and not heard widely until years later. Gretz in Bender and 
Gretz, p. 25. 

[41]Quoted in Kazadi 1992, p. 79. [Source not cited]. 

[42]Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaire Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954 . [Translation by Dizzy 

[43]Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960 . [Translation by Sylvain Konko]. 

[44]Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaire Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. 

[45]Roots of O.K. Jazz, Zaire Classics vol. 3, 1955-1956. [Translation by Dizzy 

[46]Roots of Rumba Rock, Zaire Classics vol. 1, 1953-1954. [Translation mine]. 

[47] One does not know who scripted the skit, or if the author was a beneficiary of 
white domination. 

[48]Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960. 

[49]Gretz in Bender and Gretz, p. 12. 

[50]Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960. [Translation by Sylvain Konko and Jesse 
Samba Wheeler]. 

[51]Kenis 1995, p. 10. 

[52]Stuart Hall, "New Ethnicities," in Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, 
eds. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 223. 

[53]Hall 1995, p. 223. 

Jesse Samba Wheeler is a Ph.D. candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of 
California-Los Angeles. He received his M.M. in Ethnomusicology from the 
University of Wisconsin-Madison and his B.S. in Performance Studies from 
Northwestern University. His work centers on questions of popular music and 
identity, and he is at present in Brasilia, Brazil, researching rock. Other projects 
past and present include research on various African pop musics, and zydeco of 
Louisiana and East Texas. He is an amateur (in the literal sense) singer, a member 
of the Los Angeles-based samba band BatUCLAda, and a semi-retired DJ. He voted 
against both Georges Bush. 

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Explanation page on Rumba Lingala as Colonial Resistance 

Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative - ISSN 1780-678X 
Editorial Board Policy 

Author: Jesse Samba Wheeler 
Published: February 2005 

Abstract (E): This article examines how Congolese Rumba Lingala musicians, with the creation of a new musical style in the 
late 1940s and 1950s, contested colonial authority and envisioned an independent future. At the height of colonial oppression, 
these artists stimulated their compatriots through song to rethink the meaning of being Congolese, a poetic and powerful 
aspect of the liberation struggle. Musical examples accompany the analysis. 

Abstract (F): Cet article analyse la manire dont les musiciens du Rumba Lingala congolais ont contest I'autorit coloniale et 
ouvert des nouvelles voies d'avenir en crant un nouveau style musical la fin des annes 1940 et dans les annes 1950. Au fate 
de I'oppression coloniale, les chansons de ces artistes ont su encourager leurs compatriotes repenser leur identit congolaise. 
Elles constituaient ainsi un aspect potique et puissant de la lutte de libration. L'analyse s'appuie sur de nombreux exemples 

keywords: Rumba, lingala, Congo, colonialism 

Images of Technology 

Rumba Lingala reached people through radio broadcasts, 78 recordings and live performances. The presence of radios in 
Congolese homes is recorded in the pages of Nos Images , a weekly magazine printed in French and the four major 
languages of Congo Beige (Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo and Ciluba). Photographs showing the family gathered around the radio 
abound. One from 1952 shows a well dressed family enjoying a program on their modern radio, on top of which sits a 
modern electric fan. The man of the house sits in a sofa chair in the foreground reading the radio publication, La Voix du 
Congolais . [1] [illustration 1] 





ill. 1 

In 1954 Nos Images featured a two-page photo spread celebrating five years of the African Program on Radio Congo Beige 
pour les Indigenes (RCBI). Photographs show a crowd gathered around a loudspeaker erected outside; a man and woman at 
home enjoying their radio; the inside of RCBI's music library, where some 3,000 discs were stored; a wall of photographs 
sent in by listeners along with letters, of which 17,000 were received in 1953; and several studio shots, including one with 
the first female voice on RCBI, Mile. Pauline Lisanga, a famous singer of the new Congolese music. The photo shows her 
reading a list over the air, and the caption indicates she was charged with handling music requests. [2] [illustration 2 and 3] 

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ill. 2 



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ill. 3 

One of my favorite images is of two men who submitted their photograph for inclusion in the section of Nos Images devoted 
to subscribers. Whereas most photographs in this section show a man alone or with his family in front of his house, this one 

shows two men shaking hands over a phonograph . They are facing the camera, and each has a leg up on a rung of the 
chair between them used to elevate the phonograph. [3] [illustration 4] 

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[l]/Vos Images 50 (August 15, 1952), p. 12. 
[2]/Vos Images 81 (February 10, 1954), pp. 2-3. 
[3] Nos Images 127 (January 1, 1956), p. 15. 

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